My Watch Collecting Journey - a hobby that's become a business
I’d always worn a watch. I’d always thought I might collect them. In 2014, I started.
My name is Hamish Robertson, and I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of The Watch Collectors’ Club. What started as a minor hobby focusing on something interesting and pretty on my wrist has turned into a full time job with the goal of building a global collector community for everyone who likes watches.
The Watch Collectors' Club Logo. We're hoping this will be known everywhere anyone wears a watch.
Getting started in Watch Collecting
My career was going well and I had always wondered about collecting watches. At that point, I was still wearing the Tag Heuer my parents bought me for my 18th birthday. It had been through a lot, including a very expensive service in 2009 that cost 75% of the original cost. It was a reliable little beauty though and super subtle.
I wanted something older, and more interesting. I knew nothing and pottered around eBay. For some reason, I couldn’t imagine myself going into new boutiques, or spending more than a few hundred pounds on a watch. I now know that feeling is very common amongst people looking for a watch. They have no idea what they should be paying or what they’re buying. In the end, I did something simple and bought a knocked-about steel 1950s Jaeger LeCoultre from a reputable looking online antique dealer. Not a watch dealer, just someone who passed along a handful as he came across them. I think I asked two basic questions and was satisfied with his replies, so went for it. This was the start of my watch collecting journey.
Jaeger LeCoultre Steel Men's Watch from the 1950s
Tag Heuer Professional purchased in 2002 for my 18th Birthday
I was delighted. Despite its rather dirty dial, unpolished case, and unremarkable features, it ran very well and felt great to wear. At only 36mm in size, it was subtle, almost a secret pleasure. As far as falling down the rabbit hole and becoming a collector, that was that. Within six months I had another…
Gold Jaeger LeCoultre Automatic Men's Watch from the 1950s
I quickly learned that Jaeger LeCoultre are a legendary Swiss watchmaker, and famous for their quality movements, or mechanisms. Having purchased the first, I saw another while at an antiques fair with my mother. It was equally simple, but solid gold. It didn’t take me long to buy it. Entertainingly, I felt my collection was complete! A steel watch for everyday wear and a gold watch for fancy occasions. I had failed to consider so many other things, I thought I was done.
Of course, I was mistaken. I now had two Jaeger LeCoultre watches and wanted to know more about the brand. Googling almost randomly led me to a few interesting posts about their watches, and more specifically their famous watches. I learned about the Reverso, Futurematic, Memovox, Polaris, and Master Control. I also got very excited about their Military watches.
Without taking you through all my purchases, I ended up with an example of a few of these but also branched out into other models.
Five Jaeger LeCoultre Watches - From Right to Left: Futurematic, WWW "Dirty Dozen" Calibre 479, Gold Men's Watch, Reverso from 1946, Gold Men's Watch
Talking about Watches
Only a couple of years after taking up this hobby, I moved to London. In my new office, someone from another team in my department noticed my watch and struck up a conversation. That person was Ed Howkins, my now Co-Founder, and he was the first watch collector I’d met.
Having discovered we were both collectors, we simply asked each other what we were wearing each time we bumped into each other in the office. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t awkward, and it wasn’t difficult. It was the easiest way in the world to explore someone’s collection. He was a much more experienced collector than me and was more confident. He’d learned who else in the office liked watches, and encouraged me to ask them about that day’s timepiece.
I cannot stress enough how my interest in collecting increased thanks to these opportunities to talk about my watches and ask people about theirs.
Ed Howkins (left) and Hamish Robertson at the First trial event for The Watch Collectors' Club in November 2019
Watch Events and Education
Ed also knew of a watch meetup in London. Watch meetups are where people get together to simply talk about watches and see what each other owns. They have been happening for decades, as long as people into horology (the study of watches and clocks) have been able to find each other. The coming of the internet age has made it much simpler to find fellow watch lovers, but hasn’t until very recently, made it easier to meet up in person with them.
Social Media changed the watch world forever. Watch groups sprang up, especially on Facebook and Instagram. Two watch meetup groups became established in London, and Ed already knew about them Redbar and Time4aPint. We decided to go along together, an activity that made me much more confident in attending, as I really didn’t know what to expect.
I should not have worried. I had a fantastic time as both events are filled with interesting people with even more interesting watches. The variety can be extraordinary, especially at Time4aPint, which features more vintage watches and collectors.
I swiftly fell under the spell of two more watch brands: Universale Geneve and Breitling. Ed also encouraged me to buy from auctions, and I found a London based watch specialist called Watches of Knightsbridge. A few over-excitable mornings later my collection had grown even further!
Getting my watches ready in my watchbox to take to a Meetup
Why did this happen? Simply because there is no better way to further a passion than finding like-minded people who are happy and delighted to share their knowledge. Attending the events encouraged me to explore what I liked, buy with confidence, and gain satisfaction when I could share my recent additions with other watch lovers. For many, and me at first, it can be a private journey, and not everyone wants to be a public collector. Meeting other watch lovers and discovering the enormous wealth of detailed knowledge and enthusiasm was infectious.
I now have 18 wearable watches, a Fitbit, and one that is broken and in need of specialist repair. I have spent the last 3 years only buying new watches, a few G-Shock, Swatch and a Unimatic character watch, below. I have learned so much about watches that how I collect has transformed. I currently want to spend little (I’m an entrepreneur with no salary), and I want to buy fun things I like. I also am making a list of things I want if I ever have time to collect seriously and in size. It’s a very very long list!
2022 already has one new purchase, this sensational Casio G-Shock Moonwatch. It’s my brightest, boldest, shiniest watch by far. Even 3 years ago I wouldn’t have gone near this. My appreciation of what G-Shock does, my growth in understanding of the variety on offer, and my belief that I can collect and wear whatever I please have led to this. I love it.
Casio GM-2100MG-1AER Moonwatch G-Shock
More means More
My experience has led me to believe that the collectors' community can go further. That more events with more variety will lead to more people taking the same journey I have. For those just starting out into the world of watches, or on the sidelines unsure where to go, more events means more opportunities to experience the enthusiasm and passion of the community.
If you’re reading this you know I am building The Watch Collectors’ Club as a full-time job. Many people ask why it will succeed, how will it earn money, and why build something in such a small niche. I reply that there are a lot of watch lovers, we have plenty of options to earn revenue if we can create things people want to buy, and the “niche” is currently a $30-40bn annual market. Success means more events, more educational content, and more people we can help on their collecting journey and make friends with people in the community.
Watch lovers inspecting their timepieces at our October Meetup
More importantly though, I’ve seen the power of community first hand. I’ve taken a journey myself, navigating a confusing and unruly world of online advice and advertising. I’ve taken baby steps and enjoyed wearing the results. I’ve found like-minded people I’ve learned from and given me the confidence to collect further. I’ve used my knowledge to buy more carefully and purposefully, while still simply gotten over excited and pulled the trigger on something I loved.
Building The Watch Collectors' Club
I’m building a company that can take others through this journey. Whether starting out or with a few watches in hand, we will provide fun events and content to take them wherever they want to go next. To explore the world of watches and find things they never dreamed existed. To buy confidently in small corners of specialised information. To learn how to search more confidently and trust the right people and places. And then, if it suits them, we’ll help people pass their knowledge, stories and passion onto others.
The number of watch lovers is enormous. The number of collectors includes everyone with at least one watch, and we are here for everyone who likes watches. Join us at one of our events soon, and if you know anyone who might like the sound of this, please send them this email or let them know where to find us.